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What's more important for my website, from a SEO perspective?

I first had a page load time from around 900ms and a google rating from about 70. Using some plugins I managed to get the rating up to around 85, (GTMetrix page speed 90%, YSlow 90%) but the page load time also increased to around 2 seconds.

I understood that to get higher in googles ranking, you need to have a high rating. So from a SEO perspective, wanting to get high in the search results, should I revert it and go back to the 900ms/70 pagespeed rating or should I keep it like this for the higher pagespeed rating?

  • Server speed is the most important factor. A slow server-byte results in a 1-2 sec delay even before any 'fetches' take place. I recommend you take a look at webpagetest as GTMetrix, Pingdom and Yslow do not realistically test speed. You want to test your server from multiple locations, and multiple connections all at once. – Simon Hayter Mar 3 '15 at 19:03
  • I've never seen a case where improving the scores from GTMetrix and YSlow result in a slower site. How is that even possible? – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 3 '15 at 19:46
  • Yes, strange indeed, every point from pagespeed that I solved (browser caching, compress files, minify css and js, priority to visible webcontent) turned into a slower website but increased the ranking to 90. Untill I changed a setting in "page caching", now my page loads at 700-800 ms and I have a pagespeed ranking of 91 :) – vincent kleine Mar 3 '15 at 20:08
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Page speed is a bit of a misnomer. People took the early days of Google using page speed as a factor and seemed to forget what happened immediately after its implementation. I will explain.

When Google announced that page speed would be a factor, a reordering of the SERP results caused a lot of heart-burn. What happened was that Google was ranking vary fast sites far more than sites that were still fast. The SERPs became far too heavy with very fast sites even when these would boost less desirable sites within results. Almost immediately the complaints were loud and strong.

Google re-examined it's metrics and did an mea culpa within weeks. As it turned out, acceptable speed sites were being shutout from the top 10 results. "Foul!" and "Not fair!" was the cry from many site owners and they were right. If your site is within a normal response range or greater, there is no boost. However, if your site is below a normal rate, then there is a down-grade. Your site is measured overall, however slower pages can have an effect short of the obvious reason- content size. There is a measure that makes larger pages loading slower more acceptable that smaller pages loading slower.

It is all a matter of whether your site is within an acceptable range as determined by the measures of all the sites that Google has indexed.

Your site is sure fast enough. Of course you want your site to perform the best it can for user experience (UX). However, as you surf around the net, think to yourself, how fast did this site load? Most are measured in double-digit seconds these days with all the images, JavaScript, references to other sites, and so on. Google does not just measure your page, but all of what the page must download. Ever tried going to the larger e-commerce sites lately? Sshheesh!

Making your site as fast as possible and as lean as possible is a good thing and you should do just that. But Mother Superior Google is not slapping your wrist with a ruler if you get a B or even a C in class. If you get an F however, WATCH OUT!

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As a general rule, there are a couple cutoff points for page load (measured by the onload event firing):

  • 7 seconds or longer -- Google actively penalizes your site.
  • 3 seconds or longer -- Users get annoyed and don't wait for the page to load. This indirectly causes Google to rank the site worse because it sees users returning to the SERPs and clicking on competitors.
  • Under 3 seconds -- No SEO impact.

If you are talking about 900ms vs 2 seconds, do what is best for users, not what is best for the metrics the tools provide.

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